By Ms. KAVIYA NARAYANAN
“Justice delayed is justice denied”
This legal principle signifies that delay in rendering justice is no justice at all. In order to make the judiciary more efficient it is essential to dispose cases expeditiously and decisively. Indian judicial system is particularly infamous for slow and cumbersome legal procedures. Right to speedy trial is an indispensable basic human right and infringement of such right will cause gross injustice. Delay in dispensing justice will create state of uncertainty and distrust among people towards judicial system. And so, people will become anxious as they are not sure about certainty of remedy within reasonable time.
SPEEDY TRIAL- FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT:
Though there is no express provision for right to speedy trial this right is implicit in Article 21[i] of the Indian Constitution which says that, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal right except according to the procedure established by law”. Right to speedy trial is an integral part of Article 21. Thus, any inordinate and unreasonable delay in disposal of cases amounts to violation of fundamental rights.
It is also embodied in Articles 38(1), 39 and 39-A of the constitution. Thus, it is a legal obligation of the courts to render justice within a reasonable time.
REASONS FOR DELAYS:
There are three main reasons for delay in justice
1. overburden of cases
2. appeals and
3. cumbersome procedures
OVERBURDEN OF CASES:
This is the main cause for delay in disposition of case. Considering the amount of population in India the number courts available is significantly very less. Number of judges present is also not correspondent to population ratio. Such inadequacy tends to increase the number of pending of cases which will normally takes several months for disposition.
This is also due to adjournments granted by judges more than adequately without any reasonable grounds.
Another important cause for delay in disposal of cases is abuse of PIL (Public Interest Litigation) – PIL is an effective method for redressal of common grievances and for the enforcement of infringed legal rights and to protect social justice. Misuse of PIL for personal gain, political motivation, or other oblique reasons is deplorable. This will waste the precious time of the court.
Because of low judicial quality in lower courts filing of appeal in higher courts against the verdict has increased which in turn increases the burden of cases.
The more complex and technical legal procedures in both civil and criminal cases is also prompted delay in rendering justice. The procedural laws are more stringent and inflexible. As the courts are strictly bound by the procedural and evidence laws it leads to delay.
Delay in pre-trail investigation by the police department also amounts to delay. Undue delay will impair the ability of the accused to defend him.
SPEEDY TRIAL IN CRIMINAL CASES:
Speedy trial in criminal cases is an essential element in the administration of criminal justice. Section 309[ii] of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 mandates every trial or inquiry in the proceedings should be held as expeditiously as possible. The Amendment Act,2008 has provided that when inquiry or trial relates to offence under sections 376 to 376-D the trial shall be completed within two months from the date of commencement.
There are some cases in which the accused are incarcerated even before the appeals are heard. In such cases it leads to sentence of accused more than actual sentence for crime indict for.
In Abdul RehmanAntuley v. R.S. Nayak[iii] the Supreme Court has laid down detailed guidelines for speedy trial of an accused in criminal cases but it declined to fix any time limit for trial offences. The burden lies on the prosecution to justify and explain the delay. The court held that the right to speedy trial enshrined in Article 21 is available to accused at all stages namely the stage of investigation, inquiry, trial, appeal, revision, and retrial.
In HussainaraKhatoon(No.1) v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed by number of under trial prisoners who were[iv] in jails in the State of Bihar for years awaiting their trial. The Supreme Court held that “No procedure which does not ensure a reasonable quick trial can be considered as reasonable, fair, or just”. For this reason, the court ordered the Bihar government to release forthwith the under trial prisoners on their personal bonds.
If the court is convinced and has sufficient reason to believe that the right to speedy trial of an accused has been infringed the charges for the conviction shall be quashed. But this not the only course open. That depends on gravity of the offence and the circumstances of the case.The accused cannot be denied right to speedy trial merely on the ground that he had failed to demand speedy trial.
SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM:
1. The number of courts should be increased. The government should also double the number of judges. Should appoint more efficient and specialized judges in the lower courts.
2. Settling disputes through arbitration. Arbitration is a legal mechanism which saves time and settles disputes without going through the time consuming and complex procedures in court. Arbitration should be done wherever possible. Trivial and less serious offences should compulsorily be subjected to arbitration
3. Plea bargaining – which means a pre-trial negotiation which was introduced in Criminal Procedure Code through chapter XXIA by Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2006 containing section 265A TO 265L. This is applicable to offences for which punishment is less than 7 years. This is an alternative and speedy way of settling disputes. This immensely reduces the burden on the courts.
4. The adjournments should be granted sparingly.
5. Investigations by the police officials should be done as quickly as possible without any unreasonable delay. Summons/ warrants should be served without any delay.
6. Many procedures existing do not have time limit thus slows the process of judiciary. Time limit should be prescribed for every possible laws.
The delay in delivering justice causes sense of frustration to the litigants, loss of faith and dissatisfaction. There is no express provision with regard to speedy trial. Though it is a fundamental right guaranteed in Article 21 right to speedy trial so far remained as a distant reality in administration of criminal justice.
“Justice should not only be done but also seen to be done”
[i]INDIAN CONST. Art. 21 [ii]The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974, No.2, Acts of Parliament, 1974. [iii]Abdul Rehman Antuley v. R.S. Nayak, A.I.R. 1992 S.C. 1630 (India). [iv]Hussainara Khatoon (No.1) v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, A.I.R. 1979 S.C. 1360 (India).